Crossing the Cortez to San Blas

We arrived in San Blas, Nayarit in mainland Mexico and anchored in Mantanchen Bay after making our longest passage yet, 265nm and 3 nights at sea.

View from at anchor in the bay

Our engine died 20 miles from the destination around 5am in total calms. After a few minutes of silence and getting the sails up to flap around we agreed that we may have run out of fuel… our gauge is busted. We are not exactly sure our mpg, but figured we had more than enough… So we put some in from the 15 gallons we had on deck. We bled the engine (terminology for getting the air out of the fuel lines – done by loosening bolts along the fuel route and pumping it until it starts to drip-out the loosened bolt – i.e. bleed). After a few unsuccessful tries at starting she finally fired up. Phew – just ran ‘er out of fuel! Morons. So, now we know exactly what we use.

The passage was smooth. We had following seas that were not of any size really compared to Baja anyway and we were able to sail during the day both days but had to motor all night. We averaged 100 miles a day (24hr day).

Halfway across sunset

We passed the Islas Tres Marias, three large islands (with an additional fourth one that was excluded from the Marias) that are prohibited to approach because they are penol colony. Prison. The chart says “Caution: To avoid interception and detainment from Mexican officials stay well clear of islands.” Yikes. Although we didn’t get near them they provide several light houses, one of which is 2000′ high and was visible to use for nearly a whole 24 hours. I saw my first sea turtle slowly swimming by us on the second day – he poked up his little head to let me know he was a turtle, but he was too far away for a pic. We saw some more humpbacks and I got a shot this time:

Jumping humpback

We also had a paper nautilus appear in the cockpit who we guess had gotten shot up the scupper drains. I looked it up in my shell book to discover we had met a female argonaut who had with her a shell filled with eggs. Common in warm water, they travel on the surface and sometimes their male counterparts live in their shell with them. This one was tucked tight inside until she started squirming around while I was holding  her and I dropped her on the deck to unfortunately break her shell. She abandoned the shell and quickly sucked herself to the floor and we had to carefully ply her off and toss her back into the sea. After throwing her back we realized she probably would have been a sure thing to catch a fish. However, I later read that they are a favorite food of sailfish and that is a fish I would rather not catch.

Paper Nautilus washed into the cockpit

The moon was almost at it’s half and we had bright nights until it’s set that turned to dark dark nights where the phosphoresence made several creatures light up as they passed. A whale, a shark, a-something as big as the boat swam right by one night and all I could see was their big green glowy body zipping by. We saw only one power yacht on the first day and the last night we saw another sailboat and a few pangas once we got closer to land. No ship encounters. Our AIS was picking up ships as far as 100 miles away. So, although we saw none with our own two eyes, we saw several on our chart plotter moving on courses off Baja to the South or from the Sea of Cortez, South.

We sailed through some dense fog for about a half hour and I was glad that it passed. Other than that it was mostly clear skies until almost reaching land where some low clouds hovered at dawn. The smells of jungle, soil and smoke came before the sight of land and the water changed from insanely beautiful bright blue to dull greeny brown. Tall mountains rose up ahead and the palm trees were our first sight along the coast. What a landfall! Our first place that is truly tropical!

The calm anchorage of Mantanchen Bay

There were 8 other boats in the anchorage the first night and they quickly came and left each day – always sail boats of the cruising breed. The bay is big and shallow, sandy bottom and backed by lush mountains, banana groves, palms and mangroves. The water temp here is 76 degrees and there are fish everywhere jumping in troops sounding like one huge fish. It’s so calm now at 5pm, I can’t believe this is the Pacific. I guess it’s living up to it’s name.

One of my favorites of the fishermen in the morning

After scoping out the beach we locked up the outboard to an exposed piece of re-bar we had seen another dinghy do the day before. Along the beach there are several thatch roofed open air restaurants complete with hundreds of tables and chairs catering to about 20 or so people along the whole beach.

One of the seaside spots

It was a another clear, warm and beautiful day… We walked about 5 minutes from the beach to the main road where there is a small community of bread bakers who specialize in bananas. We sucked up some coconut juice and ate some banana bread while we waited for a taxi.

En Banana Land

Yesterday Andrew had waited for a almost an hour while trying to hitchhike as well as look for a cab and aborted the mission. After sticking my thumb out there, the second car picked us up! A nice Mexican couple gave us a roomy ride into San Blas for errand running and exploration.

The road leading into town is lined with jungle and estuaries full of birds. There are few or possibly no establishments between banana land and the town. Upon it’s entrance there are tons of large open bbqs smoking up the aromas of a variety of sea things. We spent the day in town meandering the streets and gathering fresh tortillas, hot baked bread, fruits, veggies and other treats along the way. We ate at a bbq spot for lunch and shared half a chicken with fresh tortillas, rice and salsa and two huge cokes for about $6.

Roasted carne and cold Coca-cola feasting

During the colonial era while the Spanish were laying siege to the world they built their ships in this port – the port of San Blas. We did not enter the port, which is a lagoon/river where there is a small anchorage and a marina. Longfellow wrote his last poem, The Bells of San Blas about this port, although he never visited. We walked up the steep hill to the ruins above the city where there was actually quite a lot still intact. From here you could see a full panorama of the sea and also wonder about the large canons once aimed at incoming ships…

A few sights

San Blas was hit badly by hurricane Kenna in 2002 and there is rubble to prove so every where. There is a lot of charm to this small town where there are very few tourists.

Foosball set-up in the main square

They offer a jungle tour here that is supposed to have great bird watching and a variety of crocodiles and the like that I wanted to go on but since Andrew and I were the only ones around it would have cost us nearly $50 so we decided not to do it. We later heard it was a hokey deal, so eh.

A horse out on the punta

We swam in the warm water here and installed our rebuilt engine raw water pump – this is our second replacement since having left Ventura. Andrew dropped me at the beach around sunset for a walk out to the point. There are these nasty little bugs called Jejenes here that apparently have kept away privatized American resort establishment in the area. Tricky! They were described in one of Andrew’s surf guides as ‘loving nothing more than fresh gringo flesh’. They have painful bites and leave horrible itchy welts. Fortunately I was prepared and wore long sleeves and leggys and covered feet, hands, neck and face with repellent. I didn’t get bit – but I mostly ran around along the beach because I was in disbelief at the beauty of the place. Maybe arriving here by way of the boat made it extra special, but the little calm coves, draped with palms, with no other footprints but mine was certainly worth a celebration.

A tropical sunset off the punta

If you managed to make it through all that, our update is that we are now in Chacala, about 20 miles South of San Blas enjoying the most beautiful of anchorages yet…

14 Responses to “Crossing the Cortez to San Blas”
  1. Huirazo says:

    Congrats for making it to mainland Mexico amigazos!!
    The pictures look increible, especially the humpback busting the unreal air…. mutante!!. San Blas looks very peaceful and the sea so calm… I wonder… probably andrew tambien.. donde estan las olas?? I hope you find those Portofino-like derechas and the rippable conditions ;).
    Enjoy the ride!

  2. Allison Shephard says:

    Dude–I’m about to quit my job and come join you!! Dang, I’m jealous. So glad to hear you guys made it across to the mainland and are experiencing the tropics. And funny creatures coming aboard–how cool is the paper nautilus?! Miss you!


  3. Chris says:

    When do you arrive in punta mita?
    El Burrrrrooo is no zippers but really fun in the OH range.

  4. Mike and Sherry Willie says:

    Hi Julie and Andrew….. Not sure you’ll get this,,,,but we wanna say we really enjoy reading your journal. We’re still in Sun Valley, Idaho~~~enjoying 33″ new snow in the past few days~~~a lot different than your life at the moment! Your sunshine and blue waters look fabulous….. love your photos. Looking forward to hearing more about your adventure. Enjoy it all! love, Mike and Sherry

    • followthearc says:

      Hi Mike and Sherry – It’s nice to know that you are enjoying our posts. I hardly have a clue who is reading, so it’s nice to get such a happy message from you 🙂 I could honestly go for some snowy mountains right now… and some powder turns. Ah! What am I talking about! Enjoy Sun Valley! Love, Julie

  5. Congrats on making it to the mainland! Glad all you did is run out of gas, The gas gauge on the truck is pretty whacked out as well so I know what your going through. I finally managed to get our blog post up from Baja if you guys want to check it out.

    Its long as hell though, Im starting to try to weigh whats important enough to post and what should be kept behind. I love reading your posts and your pictures are amazing as always.

    Miss you guys
    James and Lauren

    • followthearc says:

      Baja post was awesome! We had over 200 visitors the day you posted the link to our blog up on the those forums (a lot). And thanks for the kind words too 🙂 When you are going down the Pan-Ammmerricaan? Keep the dream alive!

  6. Amber y Damien says:

    Hola Amigos!

    We are already reading your blog as our personalized sailing adventure book & travel guide. Julie, I want to score a shell reference book like yours. What is the ISBN number? We enjoy the honesty of your engine trouble-shooting and other mishaps especially since to us you already sound like the experiences sailors. Despite our rare writings, we speak of and follow your blog often. Wishing you fair winds and calm seas as you carry on your adventure. And of course, we hope that we will eventually find the guts to follow in your wake.

    Even when the going gets rough, it will make for a good story later.

    Babe, and her crew

    • followthearc says:

      Friends! We miss you guys and think of you often…

      The shell book is a Golden Field Guide to Sea Shells of North America… ISBN: 0-307-13657-4. I have found that most shells I find are in there… but the color drawings of everything are great. I think there could be a better book out there that is focused on this region though. Wishing we had a bird book too. Is Damien back in the states?? How are things going on Babe?

  7. Kelli Childers says:

    Julie Kluh!

    I just completed your adventure thus far! The pictures are absolutely gorgeous and your stories are wonderful. I’m glad to see and hear that you and Andrew are safe and have been having the time of your life! Can’t wait to see what’s in store for the two of you next! Thinking of you often! Love you mucho!

    • followthearc says:

      Hi Kel! Thanks for stopping in a saying hi! It was really nice to get such happy comments from you and your mom. I’m glad you are enjoying the adventure on the blog and I will try and keep it coming. Thinking of and missing you too 🙂 Love, Jules

  8. Lela Childers says:

    Hi Jules & Andrew.

    I am so happy that I found your blog. It is wonderful to hear about your great adventure & your pictures are spectacular. I think of you often. Keep the stories coming. I love , love , love them.

    Here’s wishing you safe travels & calm seas.. Lela

  9. Steve and Susan Gold Coast Marine says:

    Drew Man and Juju, Well after all the hard work and $$$ is it worth it ??? Of coarse it is and then some. Wow you two are gonna make it. Ogee is preforming like it should and remember there is a warranty on the r/w pumps. Just get them to me some how. Yanmar is really good about standing behind there products. The pictures are awsome and make me want to fly there and do a 1000000hr service lol. Drew man I’m proud of you! You learned alot in a very short time and it now is proven you can handel the mechanics of the Ogee and the matrix. How did the solar pannel mounts and system work out for you? Juju is quite a writer and a good photo taker. It is good you two have learned to work as a team and make it happen That is the secret . Let me know if you need any advise on repairs. Hows the mast light?? Shinning bright?? Oh ya. Take care and keep in touch :)–~~ Steve Gold Coast Marine Ventura Ca

  10. Jess says:

    jules… this is amazing….. i love your adventures.. makes me a think a lot about getting some of my own!

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